Florida bans spending millions on agency drones for fear of espionage

Florida police, fire departments and other government agencies use multi-million dollar aerial drones due to new state rule banning government agencies from using China-based DJI devices should be prohibited.

DJI drones are one of the most widely used drones in the world, but Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has not included them in its list of approved drone makers, saying they pose a security threat. .

of approved manufacturer that is:

  • Skydio

  • parrot

  • Altavia

  • teal drone

  • Vantage Robotics

Another rule went into effect Wednesday, in addition to a change in Florida law that went into effect in early 2023, requiring all government agencies to use only drones from approved manufacturers.

of Minimum Security Requirements Rules for Unmanned Aerial Systems Prohibit government agencies from purchasing or using drones made by manufacturers in “foreign countries of concern,” including China.

Florida’s Department of Administrative Services is concerned about possible espionage by China-based DJI drones.

the secretary told the Tampa Bay Times“As a state, we are a high-value target. Florida has a mountain of information that adversaries need on both the civilian and military sides.”

This device is very popular because it is cheaper to fly than a helicopter.

First responders in northeastern Florida say they have been using drones for years and have had great success with them. It’s much cheaper than flying a helicopter, relatively portable, and provides an excellent bird’s-eye view of missing persons, fires, and even his SWAT team’s turnout, search warrants, and other scenarios.

Capt. Eric Proswimmer, spokesman for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, said: “We usually get perspectives that we don’t get elsewhere.”

Prosswimmer, one of the ministry’s licensed drone pilots, said unmanned aerial vehicles are being used to find missing people and monitor wildfires. Week-long fire on Brant Island freighterInfrared cameras showed firefighters where the hotspots were – presumably preventing the ship from sinking.

However, three of JFRD’s drones have been grounded since the beginning of the year as the state seeks to ban DJI, the Chinese drone company that controls 70% of the market.

“The next step is to wait until the end of the legislative session to figure out what the final wording is and figure out where to go from there,” Prosswimmer said.

When the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office launched its fleet a few years ago, it included several DJI drones.

If you’ve ever watched a Jaguars game, you’ve seen police using drones around stadiums to monitor crowds, identify armed suspects and locate missing persons. .

It is unclear if DJI drones were still in use with the JSO before the ban took effect.

Clay County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Drew Ford said the ban would not affect his agency.

“We purchased a Skydio drone from the government-approved domestic drone list,” he said. “He had one DJI drone that he bought a few years ago, but he doesn’t use it anymore.”

The Nassau County Sheriff’s Office said it uses American and non-American drones.

News4JAX reached out to other local agencies to see how they are responding to the ban.

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said: The SJSO Drone Unit is gearing up to implement new drone technology and does not expect any disruption to the use of drones to serve the citizens of St. Johns County. We will continue to use advanced law enforcement technology to keep our communities safe. ”

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said, “Based on the recent update to Florida Law 934.50 regarding the use of drones by government agencies, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has begun the process of transitioning its drone fleet to comply with state law. This administration will begin to budget for and safely implement new technologies.As always, this agency will comply with this new law, ensuring the safety of communities and officers and the prudent use of taxpayer funds. Good management is a top priority.”

News4JAX also uses DJI drones, but the ban is specific to government agencies.

A DJI spokesperson told the Tampa Bay Times that many government agencies in the United States use DJI drones and that their products are safe.

According to a Tampa Bay Times article, the police department that shut down its fleet said the approved replacements were more expensive and far less capable, and one even set fire to the department’s patrol vehicles. I told the legislator that there was.

For an agency that has invested tens of thousands of dollars in DJI, buying a new fleet with taxpayer money is costly. Many are still discussing how to proceed.

“We don’t want to prevent them from being able to use them, but at the same time, we’re not against what the governor is telling us to do,” said the professional swimmer. “

Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.

https://www.news4jax.com/news/florida/2023/04/05/police-fire-government-agencies-across-florida-must-ground-millions-of-dollars-in-drones-over-fears-of-spying/ Florida bans spending millions on agency drones for fear of espionage

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